My Catawba County

Five Questions: Mark Bumgarner

Five Questions: Mark Bumgarner

“Five Questions” is a series of Q&As with local leaders and visionaries who are actively Making. Living. Better. in Catawba County. We’re kicking things off with Mark Bumgarner, executive director of the Catawba County United Way.

What are the chief responsibilities of your role?
I have the best job ever! I simply let my team do what they are brilliant at! I ensure they have what they need to work their magic. It’s akin to being a conductor and a captain all at once. I set the course for where we want to go as an agency, what we want to accomplish in the community – then I get to work with all the partners to get there. I still can’t believe I get paid to do this!

What is your vision for the community, and how are you working to achieve it?
We have much need in our community, and my vision is that United Way is a catalyst for bringing the community together to address the need. My vision is that Catawba County begins to tackle the main problems facing us:  inequity, poverty and homelessness. These three issues encompass many other issues (such as substance abuse, domestic abuse, etc…). We are beginning to have critical, and sometimes uncomfortable, conversations about these issues and how we address them. Breaking down misconceptions is the beginning, which is where I think we are. We are also working with other areas (nationwide) to look at what is working elsewhere that we can replicate. Finding community partners (faith community, minority communities, government, etc…) who share mission, bringing together community agencies to collaborate – this is all part of what we are doing at the moment. 

What is the most rewarding aspect of what you do, and why?
As I said above – looking at problems we are facing, finding a new, innovative (some might say crazy) way to approach it, bringing players together to approach it – this makes me so fulfilled. It’s hard, and it’s not linear but it makes my world go round. And getting to be a part of changing mindsets, creating a stronger community – that is just a gift. I feel like I’ve stumbled into grace. 

On a personal note, what do you love about living in Catawba County?
So I’ll never say Catawba County is the best place to live – I dislike that kind of thinking. Nowhere is the best. The best is subjective and implies my world view is the only one. It’s not. BUT…Catawba County is the best place for me to live. It’s where my people are. I grew up running these streets – I know them like I know my own heart. It’s where I became me, it’s where I continue to become me. It’s where I learned to take pride in where I belong, but to never stop seeing how we can make it better for everyone. It’s where I belong. It’s where I’m happy. 

What is the best advice you've been given, and how has it made a difference for you?
My dad once told me, “If you argue with an idiot, you’re the idiot.” Profound – it’s made me realize when you can’t find common ground it’s OK to walk away. My mom told me, “You always do for others first,” and she lived that. That shaped my world view and helped me find my happiness in working to make things better. And lastly, a former Catawba County co-employee used to say, “I can grow you but I can’t grow you up.” That’s just really good advice for dealing with others. 

Rapid Fire Round:

Early bird or night owl?
Who cares as long as a nap can be had!

Mountains or beaches?

A little bit country or a little bit rock and roll?
New Wave – I’m an 80’s kid! Well, and ABBA!

Star Wars or Star Trek? 
Star what? Dr. Who!

Eastern or Western BBQ?
Vinegar based sauce ONLY!!!!